By Don MacGillivray

 

Portland’s random home demolitions and unpopular construction practices will continue unabated indefinitely if something isn’t done.

One of Portland’s greatest treasures is the distinct character of its neighborhoods. New construction should not tower above existing homes and impinge on neighbors’ privacy. However, older affordable homes in neighborhoods are being demolished and replaced, with houses many times their size and sold for twice the value.

On the evening of September 9, 60 neighborhood leaders and residents from twenty neighborhoods gathered at Grant Park Church in NE Portland to address citywide concerns over residential demolition and development practices.

A continuation of last spring’s summit meeting on the same issue, the evening was intended to gather suggestions for a reform proposal that a wide range of neighborhoods could support and that city officials could not ignore.

The proposal was initially conceived over the increasing number of demolitions and the resultant loss of affordable quality homes replaced by more expensive ones lacking the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

At a City Council meeting July 31, the Historic Landmarks Commission noted a “demolition epidemic” threatening the very character of Portland. Following testimony at the July 31 Council meeting, Mayor Charlie Hales assured the partisan crowd that they would see action soon in this matter. Other commissioners were equally concerned about the many complains voiced by the public.

Some neighborhoods have well thought-out plans, but the city wide organization, tentatively named “United Neighborhoods For Reform,”  is working to formulate a collective program.

Here are a few ideas they are considering.

The City must:

• appropriately define the word “demolition” that is left undefined and ambiguous in the city building code

• refine the demolition delay ordinance so that neighborhood notifications are timely and 35-day delay period not be avoided by a and unfortunate loophole in the City building code

• encourage homeowners to sign a nonbinding “Neighbor Pledge” to not sell their home to developers for demolition thereby preserving the existing character of a neighborhood.

On September 21, even The Oregonian editorial board, agreed that the City should address this issue writing  “…The City Council this year can take a few smart steps. First would be to embrace an ordinance-in-the-making that removes a loophole in a code now requiring a 35-day waiting period before a property buyer can demolish the old home…Closing the loophole would not … pose too heavy a burden on the developer.”

Portland prides itself on its commitment, as stated in many land use plans, to sustainable practices and little has been done little to stem the tide of these demolitions.

Portlanders do their best to recycle everything, yet developers are allowed to destroy and throw away whole houses of valuable and reusable material.

The neighborhoods will continue to meet and refine their proposals, collaborating with other neighborhood associations in the drafting of a joint action plan to the City to address demolition and development concerns.

 

The next meetings is October 9 at the Grant Park Church, 2728 NE 34th Ave. An invitation from Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood Association (BWNA) and Central Northeast Neighbors(CNN)to attend. Contact Chair Al Ellis editor@bwna.us  for more info.

 Open to the public, but with priority given to representatives from neighborhood associations.